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Glenn Eller shooting at 2008 Summer Olympics double trap finals Walton Eller at 2008 Summer Olympics double trap finals.JPG
Glenn Eller shooting at 2008 Summer Olympics double trap finals
Olympic competitive air rifle shooting by Nancy Johnson in Sydney 2000 Nancy Johnson (sport shooter) 4.jpg
Olympic competitive air rifle shooting by Nancy Johnson in Sydney 2000

Shooting is the act or process of discharging a projectile from a ranged weapon (such as a gun, bow, crossbow, slingshot, or blowpipe). Even the acts of launching flame, artillery, darts, harpoons, grenades, rockets, and guided missiles can be considered acts of shooting. When using a firearm, the act of shooting is often called firing as it involves initiating a combustion (deflagration) of chemical propellants.


Shooting can take place in a shooting range or in the field, in shooting sports, hunting, or in combat. The person involved in the shooting activity is called a shooter. A skilled, accurate shooter is a marksman or sharpshooter , and a person's level of shooting proficiency is referred to as their marksmanship.

Competitive shooting

P. E. Svinhufvud, the third President of the Republic of Finland, shooting at shooting range of Kuopio in 1934. Presidentti Svinhufvud - 1234,0492.jpg
P. E. Svinhufvud, the third President of the Republic of Finland, shooting at shooting range of Kuopio in 1934.

Shooting has inspired competition, and in several countries rifle clubs started to form in the 19th century. [1] Soon international shooting events evolved, including shooting at the Summer and Winter Olympics (from 1896) and World Championships (from 1897). [2] The International Shooting Sport Federation still administers Olympic and non-Olympic rifle, pistol, shotgun, and running target shooting competitions, although there is also a large number of national and international shooting sports controlled by unrelated organizations. [2]

Shooting technique differs depending on factors like the type of firearm used (from a handgun to a precision rifle); the distance to and nature of the target; the required precision; and the available time. Breathing and position play an important role when handling a handgun or a rifle. Some shooting sports, such as IPSC shooting [3] and biathlon also include movement. The prone position, kneeling position, and standing position offer different amounts of support for the shooter.

Hunting with guns

Edward Hacker (1813-1905), after Abraham Cooper, RA, (1787-1868), print of shooting, UK. Print, 1866, by Edward Hacker (1813-1905), after Abraham Cooper, RA, (1787-1868), shooting scene, UK.jpg
Edward Hacker (1813–1905), after Abraham Cooper, RA, (1787–1868), print of shooting, UK.

In the United Kingdom shooting often refers to the activity of hunting game birds such as grouse or pheasants, or small game such as rabbits, with guns. [4] A shooter is sometimes referred to as a "gun". Shooting may also refer to the culling of vermin with guns. Clay pigeon shooting is meant to simulate shooting pigeons released from traps after live birds were banned in the United Kingdom in 1921. [5]


Shooting most often refers to the use of a gun (firearm or air gun), although it can also be used to describe discharging of any ranged weapons like a bow, crossbow, slingshot, or even blowpipe. [4] The term "weapon" does not necessarily mean it is used as a combat tool, but as a piece of equipment to help the user best achieve the hit on their intended targets. [6]

Shooting is also used in warfare, self-defense, crime, and law enforcement. Duels were sometimes held using guns. Shooting without a target has applications such as celebratory gunfire, 21-gun salute, or firing starting pistols, incapable of releasing bullets.


In many countries, there are restrictions on what kind of firearm can be bought and by whom, leading to debate about how effective such measures are and the extent to which they should be applied. For example, attitudes towards guns and shooting in the United States are very different from those in the United Kingdom and Australia. [7]


Canting is an alignment issue that occurs in shooting. Because scopes need to be mounted to a rifle in perfect parallel to the barrel and to ensure the cross hairs sit exactly where a bullet will go (POI), a small variation of even ¼ of one degree can cause great problems at longer ranges. A locking bar holds the mount in a perfect 90 degree to the rail system whereas a non-locking bar system can cant to the left or right. This canting (sometimes called jamming of surfaces) is caused by not matching the clamping surface perfectly to the rail. When tightened down, stress exerted on the base can cause the scope to be off from the POI by as much as several feet at 100–200 yards and gets progressively worse as range increases. Lower grade materials used in manufacturing of scope bases, inconsistent design tolerances from one manufacturer to another and other factors can cause twisting stress and cause the mount to move out of parallel with the rifle barrel. The locking bar system allows for even stress to be distributed and prevent canting of the scope mount. Another form of scope canting is caused by the rings themselves. Some mounts either have two or four screws on top of the scope ring that hold the scope in place. With the two-screw style, the ring usually aligns well but does not have the strength of the four screw system. When tightening the screws of the four screw type, the scope can twist in place, causing misalignment.

Shooting positions

The National Rifle Association of America defines four basic "competition" or "field" shooting positions. In order of steadiness/stability (the closer you get to the ground, the steadier you are), they are prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing (also called "offhand"). [8]

Hythe positions (Hythe School of Musketry was formed in 1853 to teach the army how to use the rifle in kneeling and standing positions), American and French positions were known variations of the kneeling and standing positions utilised by their respective armies. [9]

Another common, but aided, shooting position is the bench shooting position. There are also numerous shooting aids from monopods to tripods to sandbags and complete gun cradles. [8]


Athletes fires from the prone position at a Biathlon competition 2020-01-08 IBU World Cup Biathlon Oberhof IMG 2590 by Stepro.jpg
Athletes fires from the prone position at a Biathlon competition


An athlete fires from the sitting position at a Field Target (FT) shooting event Posizione libera.jpg
An athlete fires from the sitting position at a Field Target (FT) shooting event


Sagen Maddalena kneeling in the 50m rifle 3-position rifle event at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games Spc. Sagen Maddalena and Mary Tucker at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games 50m rifle 3 position, July 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (51348063567).jpg
Sagen Maddalena kneeling in the 50m rifle 3-position rifle event at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games

Standing (or offhand)

Athlete firing air rifle standing at the British Championships BOAG 26 02 2023 (89).jpg
Athlete firing air rifle standing at the British Championships

Rice paddy squat in rifle shooting

The rice paddy squat (or rice paddy prone) position is a moderate-stability position that supports both elbows, making it more stable than kneeling yet keeping a high level of mobility. Its higher center of gravity will still be less stable than sitting or prone. It was a traditionally taught marksmanship position but lost popularity after the Korean conflict. [12]

Back (or supine)

It was sometimes referred to as the Creedmoor position. There are a number of variations of the position. It was known in the latter half of the 18th century, and later revived by a small number of shooters in the 1860s with the introduction of competitive long range shooting at the NRA[ which? ] rifle meetings and continued in use into the 20th century amongst match riflemen. The position was really developed during the 1870s as a consequence of great interest in long range shooting associated with the international matches. Back position provided the most stable platform for the rifle in those competitions where no artificial support, including slings, was permitted. It was even superior to shooting prone unsupported. [13]

Lying on one's side

Lying on one's side is not a normally chosen position, but may be a position fallen into when reacting to a threat. In this scenario, it may be used behind a barricade to present a very small target since normally only the gun hand and a piece of one's face is exposed, with the rest covered by the barricade. [14]


When a shooter is leaning on something like a wall, a tree or post. The rifle barrel should not be rested against it because it is steadier to lean the body. [15] It's usually combined with standing and kneeling positions.


Shooting sling
A sling is visible around the athlete's left wrist, allowing the arm to relax and let the sling carry the rifle's weight Shooting at the 2016 Summer Olympics - Men's 50 metre rifle three positions 3.jpg
A sling is visible around the athlete's left wrist, allowing the arm to relax and let the sling carry the rifle's weight

The sling is used to create isometric pressure to increase steadiness. While the use of a sling is of questionable value when shooting from the standing position, it is very much worth using from kneeling, sitting or prone. It was also used in back position in which case the sling is looped around the foot and it is this that takes the recoil. [13] Proper use of the sling locks the rifle into the body and enhances that solid foundation so critical to delivering an accurate shot.

Hasty sling

A type of shooting sling. All positions are strengthened through the use of a hasty sling. The formal tight sling is detached from the rear sling swivel and tightened above the bicep of the supporting arm. Almost any carrying strap can be used in the hasty sling mode. There is often a compromise between the most comfortable "carry" length for shooter's sling and the ideal tension for a hasty sling. The steadiness achieved is almost as good as a tight competition sling and it is a lot faster. [8] [11]


In ISSF shooting events, 3 out of 7 shooting positions are used. Positions not used are supine, sitting, rice paddy squat and side position.

WBSF governs benchrest shooting.

IPSC shooting events use prone, offhand and supported shooting positions.

There are some competitions, such as felthurtigskyting, in which shooting position is freestyle. That means that the shooter decides which one of the four positions he'll use.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shooting sports</span> Sports involving firearms used to hit targets

Shooting sports is a group of competitive and recreational sporting activities involving proficiency tests of accuracy, precision and speed in shooting — the art of using ranged weapons, mainly small arms and bows/crossbows.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">ISSF shooting events</span>

The International Shooting Sport Federation recognizes several shooting events, some of which have Olympic status. They are divided into four disciplines: rifle, pistol, shotgun and running target.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Three positions</span>

International Rifle events that occur in three positions are conducted with an equal number of shots fired from the Kneeling, Prone and Standing positions, although the order has changed over the years. Each of the three positions shot during the match has a fixed time limit that the shooter is able to shoot unlimited numbers of sighting shots and 10 or 20 shots for record.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Telescopic sight</span> Sighting device for firearms

A telescopic sight, commonly called a scope informally, is an optical sighting device based on a refracting telescope. It is equipped with some form of a referencing pattern – known as a reticle – mounted in a focally appropriate position in its optical system to provide an accurate point of aim. Telescopic sights are used with all types of systems that require magnification in addition to reliable visual aiming, as opposed to non-magnifying iron sights, reflector (reflex) sights, holographic sights or laser sights, and are most commonly found on long-barrel firearms, particularly rifles, usually via a scope mount. The optical components may be combined with optoelectronics to add night vision or smart device features.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Weaver rail mount</span>

A Weaver rail mount is a system to connect telescopic sights and other accessories to firearms and certain crossbows. It uses a pair of parallel rails and several slots perpendicular to these rails.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Accurizing</span> Process of improving the accuracy and precision of a gun

Accurizing is the process of improving the accuracy and precision of a gun.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Metallic silhouette shooting</span>

Metallic silhouette shooting is a group of target shooting disciplines that involves shooting at steel targets representing game animals at varying distances, seeking to knock the metal target over. Metallic silhouette is shot with large bore rifles fired freehand without support out to 500 meters, and with large bore handguns from the prone position with only body support out to 200 meters. Competitions are also held with airguns and black-powder firearms. A related genre is shot with bow and arrow, the metal targets being replaced with cardboard or foam. The targets used are rams, turkeys, pigs, and chickens, which are cut to different scales and set at certain distances from the shooter depending on the specific discipline.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">International Practical Shooting Confederation</span> International organization for the sport of practical shooting

The International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) is the world's largest shooting sport association, and the largest and oldest within practical shooting. Founded in 1976, the IPSC nowadays affiliates over 100 regions from Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania. Competitions are held with pistol, revolver, rifle, and shotgun, and the competitors are divided into different divisions based on firearm and equipment features. While everyone in a division competes in the Overall category, there are also separate awards for the categories Lady, Super Junior, Junior, Senior, and Super Senior.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">ISSF 10 meter air rifle</span> International Shooting Sports Federation shooting event

10 metre air rifle is an International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) shooting event, shot at a bullseye target over a distance of 10 meters using a 4.5 mm (0.177 in) calibre air rifle with a maximum weight of 5.5 kg (12.13 lb). It is one of the ISSF-governed shooting sports included in the Summer Olympics since the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Natural point of aim,, also known as "Natural Aiming Area", (NAA), is a shooting skill where the shooter minimizes the effects of body movement on the firearm's impact point. Along with proper stance, sight alignment, sight picture, breath control, and trigger control, it forms the basis of marksmanship.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United States Practical Shooting Association</span> National governing organization

The United States Practical Shooting Association(USPSA) is the national governing body of practical shooting in the United States under the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). Its over 35,000 active members and over 500 affiliated clubs make USPSA the largest practical shooting organization in the United States and the second largest region within IPSC after the Russian Federation of Practical Shooting. USPSA publishes a monthly member magazine called Front Sight.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Field target</span>

Field target is an outdoor airgun field shooting sport. Competitions are usually fired at self indicating steel targets placed between 9 to 50 m. There are two classes; Piston for spring-piston air guns, and PCP for pre-charged pneumatic air guns. In sanctioned competitions, the same competition rule set is used around most of the world. A small match can consist of 40 to 60 rounds, while the world championship consists of 150 rounds. It is common to use scope sights with high magnification and a short depth of field such that an adjustable parallax knob can be used to precisely determine the target distance. The target kill zones have three standardised sizes, which are 15 mm, 25 mm or 40 mm.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sling (firearms)</span>

In the context of firearms, a sling is a type of strap or harness designed to allow a shooter to conveniently carry a firearm on their body, and/or to aid in greater hit probability by allowing the firearm to be better braced and stabilized during aiming. Various types of slings offer their own advantages and disadvantages, and can generally be divided into several categories.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paralympic shooting</span> Competitive shooting sport

Paralympic shooting, also known as shooting Para sport, is an adaptation of shooting sports for competitors with disabilities. Shooting is a test of accuracy and control, in which competitors use pistols or rifles to fire a series of shots at a stationary target. Each shot is worth a maximum score of 10.9 points. Athletes use .22 caliber rifles, pistols and .177 caliber air guns. Paralympic shooting first appeared in the Summer Paralympics at the 1976 Toronto Games.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">300 m rifle three positions</span>

300 m rifle three positions is an ISSF shooting event, involving shooting 40 shots each from the prone, the standing and the kneeling positions. Men and women both shoot the same number of shots, though previously women only shot half the course – or 20 shots in each position.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">High power rifle</span>

High Power Rifle, also called XTC from "Across the Course", is a shooting sport using fullbore target rifles which is arranged in the United States by the National Rifle Association of America (NRA). The sport is divided into classes by equipment, and popular types of matches include Service Rifle, Open, Axis and Allies and metallic silhouette. The term High Power Rifle sometimes also includes the international shooting disciplines of Palma and F-Class by the International Confederation of Fullbore Rifle Associations (ICFRA) which are represented by the NRA in the United States.

The Art of the Rifle is a concise book explaining the use and techniques of rifles. It was authored by Lt. Col. (R) Jeff Cooper (1920–2006) and published in 1997. In it, Cooper uses short chapters to teach about both physical and mental preparedness for successful rifle shooting, whether for defense, hunting, or competition. His goal was to help the rifle shooter be accurate at any time or place. Col. Cooper was particularly well known for his pistol shooting expertise, popularizing the widely used “Weaver stance” and establishing a large training center in Arizona for military, law enforcement and civilians interested in gaining skill with firearms and defense techniques. Col. Cooper also authored at least half a dozen other books related to shooting since the 1950s. As of 2012, The Art of the Rifle was still in print in hardcover, softcover and electronic formats.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Multigun</span>

Multigun, Multi Gun or Multi-Gun, often also called 2-Gun or 3-Gun depending on the types of firearms used, are practical shooting events where each of the stages require the competitor to use a combination of handguns, rifles, and/or shotguns Multigun has a lot in common with ordinary IPSC/ USPSA single gun matches, and matches generally have courses of fire where the shooter must move through different stages and engage targets in a variety of different positions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shooting competitions for factory and service firearms</span>

Shooting competitions for factory and service firearms refer to a set of shooting disciplines, usually called service rifle, service pistol, production, factory, or stock; where the types of permitted firearms are subject to type approval with few aftermarket modifications permitted. The terms often refer to the restrictions on permitted equipment and modifications rather than the type of match format. The names Service Rifle and Service Pistol stem from that the equipment permitted for these types of competitions traditionally were based on standard issue firearms used by one or several armed forces and civilian versions of these, while the terms production, factory and stock often are applied to more modern disciplines with similar restrictions on equipment classes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Biathlon rifle</span> Rifle used within the sport of biathlon

A Biathlon rifle is a specialized rifle designed for use in a biathlon event. Specialist biathlon rifles are ultra lightweight, and usually equipped with straight-pull actions, integrated magazine carriers, and ergonomic stock designs suitable for both prone and standing positions.


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